On a trip to the South of France, the shy heroine of Rebecca falls in love with Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower. Although his proposal comes as a surprise, she happily agrees to marry him. But as they arrive at her husband’s home, Manderley, a change comes over Maxim, and the young bride is filled with dread. Friendless in the isolated mansion, she realises that she barely knows him. In every corner of every room is the phantom of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca, and the new Mrs de Winter walks in her shadow.
On one hand I am ashamed to say that I have waited until my 40th year to read this book, but on the other I am delighted that I did. I’m not sure I would have fully appreciated its brilliance beforehand.
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again …
I’ll start with the characters. The heroine (we never discover her name) is obsessed at the beginning of the book about being young and inexperienced. It’s mentioned so often that I found myself shouting – We get it! You’re young! But this is necessary as it draws us into her mindset of how every single thing she does is wrong and scrutinised. Also, she is comparing herself to Maxim who is about twenty years her senior. When she reaches Manderley her inexperience shines. It doesn’t even cross her mind that she can tell the servants what to do and is constantly being clumsy and making mistakes. She allows herself to be bullied by Mrs Danvers.
Ah, Mrs Danvers! What a character. Her ‘skull face’ will stay with me forever, the treacherous old bat. We love to hate her and she nearly manages to dispose of the heroine for good. There are a lot of frustrating moments when again I’d be shouting – Just tell Maxim! But what would be the fun in that. Rebecca slowly reveals herself throughout the novel, each piece of information crushing our heroine until the nail-biting climax. These characters will forever be living, breathing, people in my mind.
Du Maurier’s writing style is flowery prose and there are lots of descriptions of nature, the flowers, the Happy Valley, the cove. However, these sometimes in-depth descriptions, are important to the atmosphere of Manderley as a place, and gives it a heart beat of its own.
Rebecca smashed its way into my ‘favourite books of all time’ very short list. I have no doubt I will read this book over and over, but for now I’m nursing a terrible book hangover.
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost…
Little Fires Everywhere is a complex interaction of characters, revealing their intentions and secrets as the slow plot moves forward.
I will admit I was a little confused at the start with the introduction of the Richardson family – there are so many of them in the first scene that I found it hard to picture them immediately. However, they develop into individuals as you read on, the four children reminding me of the Breakfast Club – the jock, the popular girl, the geek and the outcast. But they do gain depth as Ng allows us to watch them face challenges and develop. All except Trip, the jock, his input is minimal.
The story of Mia, and her daughter Pearl, arriving in the restrictive suburbs of Shaker Heights really shakes things up (pun intended). Mia offers an alternative lifestyle to the one enforced at the Heights. She travels around, dragging her daughter from two to town and has very little material possessions. Despite Mia’s secrets, which are revealed later on, she is offered as the moral force of the book. She is the one who gives advice and guidance to those in need (Izzy) and helps in a time of crisis (Lexie). With the backdrop of a court case over whether a Chinese child should be returned to her mother or kept with the affluent family who’ve been raising hr for months, it’s clear who’s side Mia is on. Bebe, the mother, is Mia’s friend, and an an event from Mia’s past helps us understand her allegiances.
All the main characters have depth and complexities, except perhaps for Mrs Richardson who’s development as a character I imagine will happen after this book based on the lessons she’s learned.
I haven’t read a book with an omniscient narrator for quite some time and I found the style refreshing, being able to go into each of the characters lives. There is no doubt that Ng is an amazing writer and her words and imagery are executed beautifully. I can see how this may be a little slow-paced for some readers, and I did actually read two books in the middle of this, but got straight back into it. Definitely worth a read.
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
An astonishing story that powerfully depicts the loneliness of life and the simple power of a little kindness
I am so sad that I’ve just finished Eleanor, it was amazing from start to finish.
Firstly, Eleanor Oliphant herself is a wonderful, complex character whom you can’t help but love. She clearly suffers from mental illness and is extremely socially awkward resulting in some hilarious moments, like being baffled by her colleagues making fun of her wearing one white cotton glove for her eczema.
The writing is beautiful and I love that it is in 1st person so we get to stay inside Eleanor’s head the whole time, and her extensive vocabulary is impressive. I read with my pencil to hand, how could I resist underlining sentences like this; These days loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way.
This is a heart-breaking read – one of loneliness, self-hatred and dealing with PTSD. But also uplifting, with themes of self-discovery, change, taking chances and allowing positivity into your life.
Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.
With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…
Laura Purcell weaves a web of intrigue in this novel. Yes, it spooked me to high heaven but there is a deeper story here, presented through Elsie Bainbridge. Hints throughout the novel suggest that Elsie has had a difficult past and this calls into question her reliability as the story teller. It is expertly done.
Elsie is not your typical lady, having been brought up in and running a match factory and you can’t help but notice the arrogance of her new position:
Of all people, Elsie found the servants the most judgemental.
She is also not overly kind to or fond of her new family member, Sarah, who is nothing but helpful and polite. But as with any good story, Elsie learns a few things about herself and those around her.
The three time zones in the novel keep you on the edge and you desperately want to know what happens next in each setting. The language is beautiful, with a sinister tone throughout. Dark imagery sets every scene:
Her past laid out, exposed, like a body on the slab at a mortuary.
When she awoke, the room was as black as weeping veil.
The text is littered with these gems.
But above all, this is a ghost story, and what a ghost story! I was afraid to read at night alone. The companions become more sinister with each chapter leading to shocking consequences. The characters are driven mad with fear and so they would be!
There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .
On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .
Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton’s magnificent debut novel The Miniaturist is a story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.
“But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot.”
This book is stunning. The prose is like a smooth liquor that slips down your throat and warms you from the inside. And I gulped it down! The imagery is powerful throughout and presents motifs and themes intelligently. I sat with my pencil and every page has something underlined.
The characters are all intriguing and likeable. They develop and change as the story progresses, ending up as different people because of the lessons they learn. I especially loved Marin, Nella’s sister-in-law, who is harsh and a bit cruel to Nella in the beginning but we come to understand why.
The city of Amsterdam is presented as though it were a living, breathing thing that has to be soothed and navigated with care, something that Nella must learn to do in order to survive it. The descriptions of the city are mesmerising.
It is not full of action but the words are action enough. There is tension, fear, excitement, in the most simple of household tasks or conversations and that, for me, makes it exceptional.
This is a book to be savoured. Let the words fill you up, grab a cup of tea and a slice of cake, put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign and enjoy!
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.
Park is the boy at the back of the bus, Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor…never to Eleanor.
Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.
This book had me gripped from beginning to end. As soon as you are introduced to these two teenagers you instantly fall for them. It opens with Park’s point of view; ‘XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.’ This instantly took me back my school days and my love of calling everyone ‘morons’. Music features throughout and is a tool that helps bring Eleanor and Park together, as well as comic books. Eleanor is introduced as ‘big and awkward. With crazy hair, bright red’ Also, instantly relatable for me. It is definitely not love at first sight.
You may think that this is just another boy meets girl story and you’d be right but it is the ultimate boy meets girl story! Every emotion, every touch, every awkward conversation, is written so beautifully that you will feel everything they do and never want to leave them.
There are also issues of bullying, domestic violence and emotional abuse, taking us into what is a dark world for Eleanor. Park is her sunshine and we are rooting for them to have a happy ending. I won’t reveal here whether they do or not!
I am honoured to be part of the promotion for Jennifer Gilmour’s book Isolation Junction. Jennifer explains below why she is giving her book away for free from 8th to 12th of January, she also answers some questions that are frequently asked of her. All links to the book and Jennifer’s website are below, including some extracts from Isolation Junction.
Jennifer Gilmour speaks about why she is giving her novel away for FREE
My name is Jennifer Gilmour and I am a survivor of domestic abuse, I have published two books both with a focus on raising awareness about domestic abuse at their core. Whilst both aim to raise this awareness one is written as a work offiction whilst the other is a compilation of survivor stories and therefore non-fiction. Both work in different ways to educate and raise awareness of this insidious and unacceptable behaviour.
Over Christmas, incidents of domestic abuse reported to the police rise. Assault and domestic murders increase 25% during the festive period with a third of them been on Christmas Day itself. Bombarded with images of the perfect nuclear family gathered around the gold baubles of a Christmas tree, it can be easy to forget that Christmas is a time of coercion, punishment and violence for many women* and men.
Now I know it isn’t Christmas anymore but January can be just as bad because all those credit card bills come in alongside your usual direct debits. There is even a day in January called Blue Monday and this year its on the 15th. The date is generally reported as falling on the third Monday in January, but also on the second or fourth Monday, or the Monday of the last full week of January.
The formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.
Can you imagine this formula and applying it to an abusive relationship?
For 5 days my debut novel Isolation Junction is going to be FREE on Amazon Kindle, this is the first time ever to happen. It’s the week before Blue Monday, I wonder if those reading will be inspired to take action?
I ask you all to share the link and break the silence surrounding domestic abuse.
Isolation Junction was fully funded by a Kickstarter Campaign which over funded at 110%.
Over eighteen months within 2015-2016 I wrote my first novel with the aim of not only raising awareness of an insidious behaviour which brings hidden misery to so many but of bringing about changes at a national level.A ‘survivor’ myself, I am well aware that changes to national policies and working practices are still needed so that situations in which women (and men) present in emotionally abusive situations are recognised and dealt with appropriately and with compassion.
I believe that particular training needs to be focused on recognising the perpetrators of this behaviour, as often they are very persuasive people who are able to manipulate the services themselves.
Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.
She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.
It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.
After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?
Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?
About the author:
Born in the north-east, Jennifer is a young, married mum with three children. In addition to being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home-base. Her blog posts have a large readership of other young mums in business.
From an early age, Jennifer has had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and plot lines from her teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write her first novel Isolation Junction. It details the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.
Since the publication of her debut novel, Jennifer has continued to be an advocate for those in abusive relationships through her blog posts, radio interviews and Twitter feed. Jennifer also gained a qualification in facilitating a recover programme for those who have been in abusive relationships.
Jennifer continues to publicly support those who are isolated and struggle to have a voice. Jennifer hopes that Clipped Wings give’s a voice to survivor’s experiences and raise’s awareness further of the types of unacceptable behaviour which fall into the category of domestic abuse.
What was your original inspiration to start to write?
I was on an awareness course about Domestic Abuse. Alongside me were about 8 other women who had been in abusive relationships. As the day progressed, I found that I simply couldn’t believe that some of what the other women were saying was exactly what I had gone through but just in a different format. Domestic Abuse tends to go in a cycle (see photo below) and whichever way it begins, the behaviour spirals again and again. At first it could be months between incidents but for me, as time went on there were many instances within one day. It is quite normal to try to prevent the cycle from starting again by changing your behaviour as much as possible. By the end of the course I had come to understand that we were all subjected to the same behaviour and that no one knew before that this could even happen to someone i.e. that a relationship can be so unhealthy and soul destroying. I realised that others simply needed to know more about this unacceptable behaviour; they needed to see the warning signs before the relationship goes further or the behaviour gets even more serious.On the other hand I needed others to see the behaviour for what it is. If people are in a relationship and the behaviour within it is not acceptable and is not their fault, it can’t simply be changed by changing yourself.
I knew I had a story to tell and with my previous unfinished written work I realised my first novel had to be more than a book but a message – a way for others to be able to pass a book on to help victims and to get the penny to drop and bring about realisation of what is happening sooner. This means that when the relationship ends victims and survivors realise they are not the only ones out there and its ok to talk about the abuse.
How do you focus and not let your work with domestic abuse affect you emotionally?
Originally I didn’t look after myself and worked on Isolation Junction, blog posts and research even if I wasn’t in a good place. I couldn’t switch off to what I felt needed to be exposed and couldn’t understand why something so common was hidden so well. It did take its toll on me and I am happy to admit and address this. The solution was simple and that was to train myself to channel my thoughts and focus on my current happenings and not letting my mind wander. It can be still a challenge but I feel like I manage myself better and take a healthier approach.
How do you direct people who may need support after reading your books?
At the end of my books there is a message from me which include the UK 24-hour free-phone National Domestic Violence helpline, which is 0808 2000 247. There is also a support page on my website; http://jennifergilmour.com/support/
I do receive a lot of messages and I have personally referred to local centres, once I directed someone in Africa to her local support service. I have been a listening ear to many as well, the first step is telling someone about whats happened to you and so I urge anyone to speak to a ‘safe’ person or service. ‘safe’ meaning someone who isn’t involved with the perpetrator or who you most certainly can be trusted and will help you.
What do you do aside from writing?
I am a mum of three which keeps me pretty busy when I am not writing; I have a 5, 7 and almost 2 year old. As a family we enjoy the hobby Geocaching which gets us out and about, learning about the local area as well as having some fun. It can get rather competitive, if you haven’t heard of it Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.
I am also a Jamberry Nail Wraps Consultant which brings in most of my income to support my work in the domestic abuse sector including my writing. You can find out more about that on my other website: https://jennifergilmour.jamberry.com/uk/en/
Ice cold rain splattered her face; her toes and fingers were numb and yet she sat there huddled up and gently rocking herself. It was a black night with no stars, like someone had just switched off the sky. The only light shining on her face was the orange glow of a single street light. Rose couldn’t cope anymore, she was crying into her hands so hard it hurt her heart; it was a deep spike of a pain rushing through her body and this wasn’t the first time she had felt it.
Within the book;
Rose woke up at lunch time the next morning with a pounding headache and dry mouth; she had never slept this long since before Millie-Rose was born. Next to her on the bedside table she saw a glass of fresh orange, a glass of water, a cup of tea and a cup of coffee that Tim had made for her. Rose could hear some pottering about going on downstairs and she put on Tim’s robe that was hung up behind the door and went to investigate. Tim was cleaning up and had breakfast ready to cook.
“I didn’t know what you would like so I got everything. Cooked breakfast? Croissants? Cereal?”
Rose blushed and smiled as she looked and saw the selection; she felt so cared for instantly.
Within the book;
It was past midnight and we were still playing and I was starting to get really tired, the tired that you just need to drag yourself to bed or you will be asleep on the sofa, floor, toilet wherever you may be.
“OK, I’m really tired now so let’s call it a day.” I had suggested this as one of us always called it whenever it was just too tiring to carry on.
I didn’t expect his snappy response, “Look, we’re not going to bed until I beat you…and don’t think about just letting me win.”
I laughed as I thought he was joking and tired but he wasn’t. “I’m being serious you know, it’s pissing me off, it’s a fucking stupid game anyway.”
I didn’t really know how to take Darren at times and this was one of them. I didn’t know if he was going to turn around and generally laugh at the fact he was getting frustrated or if he was going to turn around and an awkward atmosphere would come.
I sat for half an hour because I knew that I couldn’t let him win.
Maddy is allergic to the world; stepping outside the sterile sanctuary of her home could kill her. But then Olly moves in next door. And just like that, Maddy realizes there’s more to life than just being alive. You only get one chance at first love. And Maddy is ready to risk everything, everything to see where it leads.
This is a joint review by me and one of my pupils, Jasmine, who is 16 and has been unable to go outside for the last five years. I teach her at home. As you can imagine Jasmine has a unique perspective when it comes to relating to this story.
First off, Jasmine thought it was a great book, if a little cheesy. I loved the book and steamed through it.
The premise of the book is an interesting one and something that people should probably talk about more. There are many young people out there suffering in similar situations, and they go unnoticed. But this is a story about hope, about taking chances, about a life that is worth living.
We agreed that the characters are all well fleshed out and interesting. Madeline’s (Maddy’s) mum is a strong woman who will do anything for her daughter. Carla the nurse is Maddy’s shoulder to cry on, she’s like a second mum, but a bit of a soft touch which Maddy uses to her advantage. When Olly comes into Maddy’s life her world is turned upside-down as she experiences love for the first time. Olly has his own issues with his family to deal with and him and Maddy almost cling to each other from the off. He is vibrant and fun and most importantly, he makes Maddy want more. She realises that a life trapped is not a life that she wants to live.
The pace is fast, the chapters are short, and you can wiz through it in a couple of hours. It picks up even more speed as the book draws to it’s shocking climax.
Jasmine and I both loved the layout. The notes, the IM’s, emails, letters and drawings all add to the world of Maddy and make it interesting. Jasmine particularly enjoyed the way Maddy observed the neighbours and made logs. She said you learn how to read people better when you’re restricted to observing people.
The only real criticism Jasmine had was that the hardships of being stuck inside the house could have been portrayed more. There is reference in the book to Maddy having an incident when she was eight, but we could probably expect more than one major incident or period of depression if you had lived your life inside for the last eighteen years, and in turn this made Maddy come across as slightly bland. Jasmine related to the birthday scene with a cake and a game and that’s it, but there was not enough reference to how hard this would be emotionally on Maddy, it only showed that her mum felt emotional on birthdays.
Overall, this is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone. It gives a valuable insight into the different lives that people are living and highlights the fact that these type of people need extra support, care and attention from the societies we live in.
Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by J. M. Sullivan
Ever since the outbreak of the Plague life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.
Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumour about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.
Mix your favourite children’s story with zombies and what do you get? A rip-roaring adventure from start to finish! This story of Alice is a bit darker than the original but it makes for fantastic reading.
Alice is a young girl living in the Sector with her sister who contracts the momerath virus. Alice is devastated and it’s now her turn to protect her family. She goes off on a hunt through the mostly abandoned city of Pheonix (Wanderland) in search of a cure. Alice discovers her strength and her ability as a kick-ass fighter along the way. You fall in love with her and root for her. She battles the momerath and stands up to the Queen, not to mention overcoming dangerous situations with her quick-thinking and intelligence.
She meets many characters that resemble their counterparts enough to be recognised but bring a new and interesting element to the story. Dr. Whaite R. Abbott, Hatta, Bug, Nate, are all well-fleshed out characters who add to the depth to the tale. But my favourite character has to be Chess. I think I’m a little bit in love with Chess. They meet by chance and Alice doesn’t know what to think when he leaves her in an abandoned, but well reinforced, van for the night. Things get even more confusing for Alice where Chess is concerned but… I don’t want to give anything away! Go and read it…
Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles is a helluva ride and you won’t want to put it down.
Toby is a boy who has forgotten how to live. Clara is a girl who was born to die.
Toby’s life was perfectly normal . . .
Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House. Isolated from the outside world the inhabitants of which are watched for any signs of a mysterious illness . . .
Clara was a girl who had everything. Adored by her friends and her family, her life was destined for greatness. Now, Clara is the newest resident of the Death House and she’s determined not to allow her life to end there.
This is Toby and Clara’s story.
I just finished reading The Death House last night, staying awake that bit longer because I needed to know the end!
I first came across Sarah Pinborough when she did a Q&A Facebook Live in The Fiction Cafe Book Club, which is an amazing group by the way. She had just released her new novel Behind Her Eyes (link at the end), but I was more interested in her YA novels as I’m studying all things YA this year. All her books sounded amazing but I settled on reading The Death House first and I’m so glad I did! This book had me gripped.
Toby is the main character and he has a lot to deal with, taken away from his family he is now a member of The Death House and boss of dorm 4. The premise of the novel is immediately gripping – all these children are awaiting the onset of a terrible disease, at which point they will be taken to the mysterious sanatorium, never to be seen again. They have a defective gene. What makes it more heart-wrenching is that we fall in love with all the characters in the novel. The boys in dorm 4 are all very distinct; brainy Louis, young Will and Jesus-loving Ashley. Their bond is an unspoken yet profound one. Tom arrives late to the dorm throwing some tension their way, but the real conflict begins with the arrival of Clara. A beautiful dancer teenager, who is bright, witty and full of life. She encapsulates the older boys and we watch in trepidation as her and Toby become close.
The use of flashbacks from Toby’s life before works really well, giving us depth and understanding about Toby’s feelings now. The flashbacks are short, not taking us away from the present story for too long, and dotted throughout. A perfect mix.
The story flows well with wonderful descriptions of the house and grounds. But mostly it is the characters and the journeys they all go on that draws you in; Toby isn’t the only character who grows and learns. They all have their individual battles to fight, trying not to get too close to their housemates because they know what’s coming, but at the same time are all bound together by the terrifying reason they are there. I will need a few days to get over this before picking up my next book. A great read.